John Henry Gee, third child and oldest son of Jeremiah Davis Gee and Mary Cornelius Gee, was born on June 21, 1813 in Anderson County, South Carolina, then a part of Pendleton District. He decided early in life that a small farm on land that had been intensively worked for over a generation held little future for him and went west looking to a better chance in life. According to his son Samuel, he left "when quite a young man" and became a trader among the Choctow Indians, then still dwelling in Mississippi. He is accounted for with his father on the 1830 census of Anderson. By studying such data as is available the writer has concluded he left about 1833 when he would have been twenty years old. He worked as an Indian trader for about three years, that is to about 1836. By that time almost all of the Choctaws had been forced to migrate to what is now Oklahoma, and John Gee had to find another trade.
Apparently he had managed to accumulate the necessary capital to set up as a farmer. He soon established himself just across the Alabama line somewhere between the towns of Millport and Kennedy in what was then part of Fayette County, but is now a part of Larmar County. A pleasant story has been handed down about his arrival in Alabama. It is that Rachel Grace Cobb, daughter of a planter of the vicinity named Wilson Cobb, was sitting over her sewing in an upstairs parlor when an elderly woman, slave to the family since long before Rachel's birth, ran up the stairs to her and called out, "Miss Rachel, the handsome red-headed man you ever saw is coming up the lane on a great white horse. You just must go down and meet him!" She did; they were married on May 18, 1837. There is a small portrait on John H. Gee made toward the end of his life. His hair is grey, but it is flecked with red.
Rachel Cobb's father took her on a visit back to their old home in Greenville, South Carolina sometime in the winter of 1836-1837. It may be that he wanted to get her away for a while to see if she really did wish to marry John Gee. Since the wedding took place shortly after they returned, her mind had indeed been made up, probably since that first meeting. Their first child was born a little over ten months after the marriage. They named him Henry C. Gee. A guess is that the C. was for Cobb, and he was named for Rachel's grandfather. Other children were to come at regular intervals for the next eighteen years. Probably their life ran on an uneventful course until July 27, 1842 when Rachel's father met an improbable and probably arranged death while trying to regain the seat he had held in the State Legislature. It must have been a stunning blow to his family; it certainly was a subject talked over by the entire community for years. Men and women who were small children when it happened recalled the death in vivid details when they were very old.
The Gee family, possibly because John had written that the land was good, became concentrated araound the area. John's sister, Mary A. Gee, had married Evan Richardson back in Anderson in 1828 and moved to Alabama shortly after. She became a widow in 1844, and on the 1850 census of Fayette County, she is listed next to Rachel's mother. The same census lists John's brother, Samuel, just south of them in Pickens County, and his other brother, Roland C. Gee, across the state line in Lowndes County, Mississippi. John H. Gee's father and mother are listed on the page next to him on that 1850 census. On November 4, 1850, J.H. Gee, as justice-of-the-peace, certified his father's application for bounty land due him as a veteran of the War of 1812. The only member of the family not located in 1850 is John's sister Abigail Gee Anderson.
Something caused John Gee to move his family to Burnsville, Mississippi in 1850. They went very late in the year as the 1850 census for their area was taken on the ninth of December, and they were listed in Fayette County. While in Mississippi, John and Rachel Gee's son William was born on August 31, 1851, the only one of their ten children not born in Alabama. They stayed in Mississippi about two years or so, because they were back in Fayette County when a double tragedy struck the family in June of 1853. On June 25th their third child, James M. Gee, died at the age of twelve. The very next day, Mary Grace Gee, then the only daughter, died at the age of four. What the cause was is unknown, but two deaths together were most likely from the same illness. Infant mortality was high in the 1800's. Eventually half of the Gee children were to die before their parents. The two children were buried near their grandfather who had died the year before. All three Gees rest in the cemetery of the Pleasant Grove Baptist Church where the Gees were members. Wilson Cobb is also buried there. It is not known if John Gee had returned in time to be with his father before he died on September 11, 1852. Some unfinished business took the family back to Mississippi after the deaths, apparently to Burnsville, but they did not stay long since they were back near Millport in time for Edwin F. Gee's birth on October 1, 1854.
On December 5, 1855, John Gee, as justice-of-the-peace for Fayette County, certified an application by his mother-in-law for bounty lands due her as the widow of a veteran of the War of 1812. Not long after this he left Fayette County forever. The Gees went to Wilcox County and a large plantation still known as Gee's Bend. Apparently it was here that, Emma, the last child, was born. The Depot Museum has received a contribution of several artifacts from the estate of John Henry Gee.
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